Guide spotlight

morgan prater - Fishing the lower mountain fork river

Author: Neil Turner & Morgan Prater

Photos: Morgan Prater

Often overlooked by anglers, the Lower Mountain Fork in Broken Bow, Oklahoma is the closest year round trout fishery in proximity to Dallas Fort Worth. Sitting 200 miles from Big D, the LMF boasts 12 miles of trout fishing that offers an outstanding experience for new anglers as well as those who have been fishing for years, especially those needing a quick fix to get their line tight. Follow along as we interview Morgan Prater, a local guide from Beavers Bend Fly Shop. Morgan will be coming to Tailwaters on May 23rd, 2024 to speak more on about their shop, her guiding career, and Trout fishing in Broken Bow Oklahoma in the beautiful foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. 

Tell us about your fishery and why it's so special to you?

The Lower mountain fork river is a beautiful tailwater located in the foothills of the Kaimichi and Oachita mountain range of southeastern Oklahoma. It is extremely unique to have a year round trout fishery this far south in the country. The river is stocked every month with rainbow trout and occasionally brown trout. Although a majority of the trout are stocked, there have been studies done that prove we have natural reproduction of both the rainbow and brown trout, making it the southern most reproducing trout stream in the United States. 

When and where did you get into fly fishing, and what led you to becoming a guide?

After college in 2012 is when I really got into fishing. I played sports all my life, including five years of collegiate voleyball, so I never really had time to fish on weekends. My husband Trey is responsible for introducing me to fishing. My first fishing adventures with him began on Brushy Creek in Round Rock, Texas. Thats where I really fell in love with him and the sport of fishing. There was something so healing about being submersed in nature and the creek. The thrill of wading in the water in search of Guadalupe bass and other warm water species quickly became our weekly adventure. Once we discovered the Lower Mountain Fork River we started making the 3 hour trip from the DFW every weekend to fish there. The beauty of this river and the fish that resided in it quickly converted us into fly fishermen. It wasn’t long after we had been visiting this beautiful place that we met an amazing human named Eddie Brister... better known as “Coach.” He was the owner of Beavers Bend Fly Shop. His generous soul and charming personality was so welcoming. He made us Texans feel right at home and played a major role in our official move to Oklahoma to work for the shop. My husband and I were tired of the 9-5 corporate world so we sold most of our belongings and bought an RV to follow our passion of the outdoors and hoped to work for and become guides for the fly shop. We made the move to broken bow in January of 2016. It was right after the catastrophic flood of December 26, 2015. We were devastated to hear that the fly shop had been washed away in the flood...We questioned if we had made the right decision to quit our 9-5 jobs and completely change careers..Although we weren’t sure if the river would ever make a comeback we stayed positive. Thankfully Coach and his wife Roberta decided to rebuild the fly shop. We had to find work to make ends meet in the meantime, so we became guides for the new zip line in the state park. During our off time Trey would help with the construction and I helped run the shop which was now out of an RV in the parking lot of where the old fly shop used to sit. Once the shop was rebuilt and the park was open to the public again, trips started coming in like crazy. Early on I just tagged along with my husband on his guide trips to help out and worked hard to prove I had what it took to take my own guide trips. I’ll never forget the day Coach came in to the shop with a smile on his face and said “Mo, I need you to take trip for me.”  That was the start of my career as a fishing guide. As a collegiate volleyball player I had done some coaching in the summer and off season. So to me, it felt like a new style of coaching. I had learned so much from working in the shop, shadowing trips and fishing with the other guides. It gave me the confidence that I could teach others how to be a successful fly fisherman. I truly believe fly fishing has healing powers for whatever you’re going through in life. When you step foot in a river, you forget about it all. That’s why I love this job. Im truly blessed to get to do something I’m so passionate about and share it with others. The past 8 years have been nothing short of amazing. This industry can challenge you in so many ways and my competitive spirit keeps me going. Unfortunately we lost Coach to COVID in 2021. This place hasn’t been the same without him, but we honor him everyday by doing what he would want us to do: Teach and provide top notch trips for our clients. I’m so thankful he took a chance on this Texas girl. He is the reason I am a guide at Beavers Bend Fly shop. 

What is attractive about Broken Bow for anglers in the DFW area? 

Its beauty and proximity to Dallas is hard to beat. A mere three hour drive to escape the concrete jungle. The clear water, tall pines, and trout are enough to appease most outdoorsman. Add in that Broken Bow Lake offers great opportunities for Bass, crappie, catfish and walleye and a fisherman’s got just about all they could ask for. For the non fisherman, Broken Bow and Hochatown have added a plethora of tourists attractions and outdoor activities for all types of people, from wineries and breweries to a six line zipline through the mountains and over the lake! It’s a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the DFW. There are thousands of cabins available for rent as well as camping and rv spots to call home for the week or weekend. 

What rod set-ups are you primarily fishing with your clients?

A variety of Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) rods 

All 9ft 5wt rods

  • Lefty Kreh Signature II series 
  • Lefty Kreh Pro II

We wouldn’t go lower than a 4wt or higher than a 5wt on our trips. 

When targeting bass, drum and river red horse we throw a variety of TFO 6wt rods

  • LK legacy 9ft 6wt 
  • BVK 9ft 6wt

Can you tell us a little bit about the seasonality and the best time to come fishing?

November-May is the best time to come. Our fall colors are next to none and it coincides with the water temps cooling down and the trout fishing firing up! Due to us being so far south, the LMF is a great wintertime fishery with plenty of bugs hatching and fish feeding throughout the coldest of months. Mid to late summer can get a little touristy and water temps get warm but we still run guide trips and have plenty of success in the hottest months of the year. During those particular months we only fish early mornings and late evenings to avoid exposing trout to the warm summer air temps. If coming during the fall and early winter please be mindful of our spawning fish. Watch out for redds and don’t fish them. Be respectful and mindful of our reproducing trout. They are special to us. 

What is your favorite species to catch on the fly on your home waters?

Aside from he obvious answer of trout, I have to say chasing River Red Horse has become a favorite. They don’t move very far and are reluctant to eat a fly and inhabit fast moving water like trout.. the challenge is what makes it so rewarding when you do hook up with one. Not to mention they put up a heck of a fight. An underrated fish in my opinion. 

What are some key gear items and must have flies for anglers in Oklahoma to have a successful outing?

  • Waders 
  • Polarized sunglasses 
  • Felt bottom boots (I prefer the felt with the studs)
  • A good hat to block the sun.
  • A good fishing net (preferably rubber)
  • 5x-6x leader/tippet
  • A variety of split shot weights BB, 1, 4, and 6

We have an eclectic bug life but our main staples are smaller caddis and mayfly species. So a variety of nymphs, dry flies and small streamers. Some go to nymph patterns are Pheasant tails, Frenchies, Copper John’s, and Pats Rubber Legs. Emerger patterns: Barrs Emergers, BWO Emergers, and RS2’s. Dry flies: Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Chubby Chernobyl’s. 

Those are all great natural patterns but a few more specific to freshly stocked fish include attractor patters like squirmy worms, any egg pattern, mops flies and wooly buggers. 

If not fishing in Oklahoma, what is your go-to spot?

We don’t travel out of our bubble much, but when we do get to travel, we love the mountains in Colorado. We spend a lot of our time at our family ranch in Pagosa Springs and always make a trip up to Lake City, Colorado as well. Both places are absolutely stunning in the fall and in the 7 years we’ve been visiting we have yet to cover all the fishable water and places to explore! We will be guiding for the Sportsman Fly Shop in Lake City, Colorado this summer during August. So if you want to book a trip give them a call and let’s get fishy with it.

If you could give any advice to aspiring anglers, or newer anglers, what would it be?

We all have to start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Enjoy every moment, even the failures. There is always something to be learned from the mistakes made. Never stop learning. Always be open to advice and critiques.  Don’t  be afraid to go into your local fly shop and just ask questions or even better hire a guide. Don’t think you need experience before hiring a guide, the best guides will shortcut your learning curve and help keep you from learning “bad habits”. Although nothing beats getting out on the water and just putting in the time. The tug is the drug!